‘A Huge Letdown’: SP Sputters In Rivalry Loss to San Marino

Ethan Hong dives for a one-yard touchdown in the third quarter Friday night for South Pasadena’s only TD in a 10-7 rivalry loss to San Marino.
Photo by Henk Friezer

For the South Pasadena varsity football Tigers, this was a night of lost opportunities, not the least of which was the loss of bragging rights in their rivalry with San Marino.

The Tigers — entering the game 5-1 overall and coming off an impressive victory over Polytechnic of Pasadena — sputtered to a 10-7 loss to the visiting San Marino Titans on Friday night in a game that left the sizeable home crowd disappointed and quiet as it headed for the exits.

In its Rio Hondo League opener, a Tiger team that had outscored its previous opponents 183-91 was limited to just one touchdown — a one-yard dive by Ethan Hong, followed by a Samuel Long-Long extra point with about three minutes to go in the third quarter.

That score moved the Tigers within 10-7 in a game they never led.

With the Crowley Cup — awarded to the South Pas/San Marino winner each year — on the line, this was a big fizzle for a Tiger team coming off a 34-20 win over Poly, when Luna-Long threw for five touchdowns and South Pas could at least dream of contending for the league title.

Conversely, this was an uplifting jolt of joy for a San Marino team that entered the game 1-6, having been outscored 211-43.

“It was disappointing,’’ Tiger coach Jeff Chi said afterward. “I think San Marino came out, they had the attitude of, they had nothing to lose, they had to win, it was a must-win situation.

“Our guys came out, maybe not in the right mindset, and they didn’t play like they are capable of. … I think the kids were really up for the game.

“It is a huge letdown for them, for all of us. But they (the Titans) made the plays, we didn’t.’’

Among the Tigers’ missed opportunities was a first-quarter drive that brought them to the Titans’ 25 before they turned the ball over on downs with about eight minutes left in the period.

Another came with five minutes left in the second quarter, when defensive back Zazriel King recovered a San Marino fumble deep in Tiger territory but the offense couldn’t capitalize and the Tigers were forced to punt.

The Titans turned that punt into a 32-yard field goal that gave them a 3-0 lead at the half.

The South Pasadena defense was a highlight on an otherwise disappointing night – here, stopping a San Marino ball carrier.
Photo by Henk Friezer

South Pas kicked off to start the third quarter, and San Marino then drove for its only touchdown – a 10-yard run that put the Titans up 10-0.

The Tiger defense, a strength all night, provided one of the South Pas highlights when it kept the Titans out of the end zone after San Marino drove to the South Pas 12 with about five minutes to go – but again the Tigers lost an opportunity and had to punt.

After a subsequent San Marino punt, the Tigers couldn’t cross midfield and again turned over the ball on downs.

“I think we had our opportunities, we just didn’t make the plays,’’ Chi said.

“But a heads-up to those guys – their defensive line was very aggressive and they took advantage of that. And they played very well on the perimeter, that messed up our timing.’’

Hong rushed 11 times for 44 yards, while Luna-Long, a week after his highlight-reel night, was a modest 8-for-18 passing for 131 yards — pressured to scramble a good deal. Ivan Estrada led the Tigers with four receptions for 43 yards.

Next up for South Pasadena is a road game next Friday versus league leader Monrovia.

“They’re going to be tough,” Chi said. “We’ll just have to regroup and get back into it.’’